Hiring someone to represent you is just the first step in what should be the development of a working relationship with your attorney. We at McKinney, Tucker and Lemel feel that the ongoing development of this relationship is a key factor in achieving a successful outcome for you. As you go about choosing an attorney and beginning this relationship, here are some important things to consider:
- Never rely on a TV spot, Billboard, Yellow Pages ad, or Direct Mail solicitation in choosing an attorney. Remember that advertisements such as these are proof only that an attorney is spending money on advertising. They prove nothing about the attorney’s abilities, and the costs of these advertisements have to be paid for by fees charged to their clients.
- Check on an attorney’s reputation and past client satisfaction. There is no stronger proof of an attorney’s abilities than a past client recommending them. At the end of a case, regardless of the outcome, a client should feel like they were well advised, well informed, and well represented. Checking on an attorney’s reputation in the community and the opinions of past clients will give you a clear indication of your chance of developing a successful attorney-client relationship. Asking around may save you a great deal of unnecessary anguish.
- Find out the focus of an attorney’s practice. Many attorneys claim to practice in broad areas of law, when in fact their practice rarely involves cases in those areas. In difficult financial times, attorneys may broaden these claims, despite the fact that they do not have a significant background in these areas. When trying to establish the attorney client relationship, find out exactly what a prospective attorney’s background, education, and experience are in that particular area. Try to dig beyond superficial claims of knowledge and find out what kinds of cases they have taken to trial in the past.
- Make sure you have a clear understanding of the fee agreement. In every case with an attorney, you should have a written fee agreement signed by both you and the attorney. This fee agreement should clearly define the nature of your financial arrangement. Fixed fees, contingency fees, and hourly fees all mean dramatically different things, and you should have a clear understanding of exactly what fee arrangement you have. Otherwise you could be terribly surprised when you get the bill.
- How stable is the legal staff? Paralegals, assistants and other staff members form a crucial role in providing quality representation. Attorneys and staff members who work together for years develop a bond that means greater efficiency and better service for their clients. It is not unusual for clients to have extensive contact with legal staff, and a long term assistant can be a crucial asset.
Gary C. Lemel is a graduate of Vanderbilt University and Wake Forest University School of Law who has deep background as a criminal defense attorney in Rock Hill. Over the course of his career, he has handled everything from traffic violations to death penalty litigation. His current practice spans multiple counties and focuses on cases involving driving under the influence, drug charges and high-level felonies. He also serves on the board of the South Carolina Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys and as a member of the South Carolina Bar’s Judicial Qualifications Committee and Public Defender Standards Committee.